05 November 2009
In Russia, there is an official list of jobs that are considered too dangerous and physically demanding for women. One young woman, Anna Klevets, recently tried to challenge the list. She filed a discrimination claim after being turned down for a job as an underground railway train driver in St. Petersburg.
Russia's constitution guarantees men and women equal employment. But a section of the country's labor code states that women should not do "hard, physical" labor that entails harmful or dangerous conditions.
In 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed off on an updated list of no-can-do jobs for women. It includes nearly 500 positions, including chimney sweep, firefighter, blacksmith, steel worker, diver and metro train operator. Student Anna Klevets applied for the metro train operator job and was denied. As a result, she filed a discrimination lawsuit with Russia's Supreme Court. She argued that women can already drive buses, trams and trolleys, why not metro trains?
Evgenny Nasonov is with the Kremlin-aligned Young Russia Foundation, an organization that promotes "Russian family values". He says the job restrictions make sense.
Nasonov says he thinks there are several jobs and professions that women should not do. For instance, he does not think women should defend their country and that men should protect their homeland. He says that women should stay at home and take care of children and the family.
Masha Lipman, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, says she is not surprised that such a list exists. "Such lists do not get revised very often. I don't think Putin looked deeply into it. And I don't think a president should. It's the job of a society," she said.
Anna Klevet agrees. She says she was hoping her lawsuit would help change the way Russian society views women.
But, that hope was dashed recently when Russia's Supreme Court upheld the ban on female train drivers.
Irina Vasanova is a teacher in her late 50s. She thinks it is sad that women can not do the same jobs as men. She says that in Soviet times, women could repair roads and railways. She says women did very hard, masculine work.
Analyst Lipman, says it appears that the days of women, working alongside men in most any job, are long gone. "There is, I think we can say with certainty, that there is not much interest, this is an overstatement. There is no interest in gender issues at large in Russia," she said.
Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, Klevets says she is not giving up on her dream to drive a metro train. She says she will appeal to a St. Petersburg court to challenge the working conditions in the city's metro stations, in an attempt to make conditions more suitable for women.
Several attempts to reach the Supreme Court for comment were unsuccessful.